My siblings and I probably all made chicken cordon bleu in Home Ec class in high school. It was so fancy and made us feel like accomplished chefs. Ham and cheese is rolled up in a chicken breast, which is butterflied and flattened to an even thickness. It is then breaded and cooked to make an elegant chicken dinner. Cordon Bleu is a french term meaning, blue ribbon. However, the problem with this dish is trying to make the cheese stay inside the chicken. It tends to ooze out as it bakes, leaving chicken with ham and no cheese, unless you scrape it off the baking sheet and serve it on the side. You can make chicken roll resemble a porcupine by attempting to hold it all together with numerous toothpicks, or you can follow the genious technique from America’s Test Kitchen. I am impressed. The cheese stayed inside the chicken, and I loved the breading too, a combination of bread crumbs and Ritz crackers.
Yields: 6 chicken rolls, serves 4-8, depending on how big the chicken breasts are
25 Ritz crackers
4 slices of bread
6 Tablespoons butter, melted
6 slices of ham, I like Virginia baked ham best (if your chicken breast are large, you may need to use two slices of ham instead of 1 per each chicken breast, in which case you’ll need 12)
about 2 cups of shredded cheese, Swiss, Mozzarella, Provolone, etc.
6 chicken breast halves
salt and pepper
1 1/2 Tablespoons mustard
1/2 cup flour
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Use a food processor to pulse the crackers and bread into crumbs. Toss with the melted butter. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil, spread the crumbs on it and bake until golden, tossing a few times as it bakes. Set aside the crumbs in a pie plate or another shallow rimmed dish. You can use the same foil and baking sheet to bake the chicken on later. Take the slices of ham and place 4-5 Tablespoons of cheese in the center. Roll the ham around the cheese. Make an incision the the thickest part of each chicken breas using a paring knife, and carefully cut as far inside without cutting through the chicken. Cut all the way into the tip of the chicken and into the top, beyond the center cut. Season with salt and pepper. Place the rolled up ham inside the slit. If the chicken breast is large, put in two pieces of ham. Close the slit tightly. Place the chicken in the freezer for 15-20 minutes. This will firm it up and help keep it intact. Set up a breading station with the flour in one pie plate or dish, the breadcumbs in the other and the eggs whisked together with the mustard in another. Dredge the chicken in the flour. Dip in the eggs. Toss in the breadcrumbs, using your hands to press the breading onto the chicken. Place in the freezer for another 7-10 minutes, to firm up again. That’s right, NO TOOTHPICKS required, folks. Firming it up in the freezer will help keep it all together.
You can prep the chicken up to this point and refrigerate it up to a day ahead of time. Very convenient. Use the same baking sheet you used for baking the crumbs and place the chicken on the baking sheet. Bake on the bottom rack of the oven for 10-15 minutes, until the bottom of the chicken is crispy and brown. Move the baking sheet to the middle rack and decrease the oven to 400 degrees. Bake for another 15-20 minutes, until it reaches a temperature of 160 degrees. Can you tell how juicy the chicken is when you don’t cook it to death? I love my meat thermometer, just takes a second to check the temperature. No more guessing, overcooking the meat or cutting into pink chicken.